Cover letters are confusing. They seem anachronistic in a job market dominated by online submissions, telephone interviews and clearinghouse job sites. It’s no wonder that college students and recent graduates are less likely to send cover letters when applying for a job than other age groups. This February, Phyllis Korkki wrote an article for the New York Times on the importance of cover letters. To make your mark in a hiring pool, Korkki believes it’s essential to send a cover letter with your resume: an effectively written and presented cover letter can give you a serious edge in competitive job markets. Resumes give potential employers good information about your qualifications, but cover letters can be tailored to each individual company.
Here are Korkki’s tips on making an impact with your cover letter:
- Find out the decision-maker’s name, if you can. Otherwise, use “Dear Sir or Madam” or “To the Hiring Manager” and end with a colon (:).Keep it short! No more than 3 or four paragraphs.
- Explain why you are contacting the company in the first paragraph.
- In the middle paragraphs, explain why you are a good candidate and show that you are knowledgeable about the company.
- Highlight specific past achievements.
- Finish up by indicating you will follow up with them in the near future.
- For an added punch, attach your cover letter in a single document with your resume AND send a copy by regular mail.
- Have someone look over your cover letter before you send it!
Find the rest of Korkki’s advice in her article, “A Cover Letter is Not Expendable,” here: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/15/jobs/15career.html.